West Valley Water District
A Chronology of Corruption, Cronyism, Malfeasance and Mismanagement
In late January when news broke that the West Valley Water District (WVWD) Board of Directors (BOD) agreed to pay $450,000 in severance to then General Manager Clarence Mansell, it was regarded by most as one more twist in the ongoing saga that plagued the agency in recent years.
It was during this era of spiraling dysfunction, mind numbing allegations, pointed accusations, counter complaints, alleged threats of violence, malfeasance, a revolving door of—at times—unqualified administrators, lawsuits and misuse of ratepayer funds that Clarence Mansell was allegedly recruited by none other than former BOD president, Clifford Young in 2018.
Beginning in 2016, the WVWD devolved into what critics saw as a breeding ground of dysfunction. In succeeding years, it was apparent, behind nearly every scandal, disruption, or complaint—stood Clifford Young. What caused the agency’s troubled waters to begin churning wildly at that time is unknown beyond the arrival of C. Young’s protégé, Greg Young, who was elected to the board in November 2015.
Whether having G. Young by his side bolstered C. Young’s willingness to unleash his inner bully remains a mystery. What is clear however, is once his inner bully was unleashed, it set in motion a period of tumult that continued through subsequent years.
Along the way, careers were disrupted, reputations besmirched, rate payers robbed and administrators came and went. Yet, the man who sparked it all, Director Clifford Young, was re-elected in November 2018.
Caught amid this storm was former General Manager Clarence Mansell who was purportedly recruited to the agency in June 2018 by none other than C. Young, who supposedly bypassed the agency’s normal hiring process to bring him aboard.
Unfortunately for Mansell, little did he know at the time, within a few short months C. Young would be unceremoniously ousted from his position as BOD president, along with vice president G. Young. Nor could Mansell have foreseen the very man who supported his entry to the agency would play a role in his scapegoating, including Mansell as a defendant in a qui tam lawsuit C. Young initiated, and would allegedly support—if not led the effort—to push Mansell out.
According to WVWD, Mansell was professionally qualified for both positions he held at the agency—assistant general manager and general manager. He brought with him more than 40 years’ experience in the industry, was considered by the agency as an accomplished water expert, and had experience collaborating with a variety of policy leaders and agencies throughout California.
When the board elevated Mansell from assistant general manager to general manager six months later in January 2019, Board President Dr. Michael Taylor stated, “Clarence brings with him the experience that will allow West Valley Water District to become an innovative leader while increasing the service levels our customers deserve.”
Board Vice President Kyle Crowther declared, “Clarence is incredibly creative and smart, and he is eager to explore new ideas to improve our infrastructure.”
When the vote was taken however, Mansell no longer enjoyed the support of C. Young nor his protégé, G. Young—who had also voted yes to his hiring. Both men voted no.
In recent years, the IE Voice and the Black Voice News followed this story closely. The San Bernardino Sun and other local outlets also filed reports. The WVWD took issue with the San Bernardino Sun over the accuracy of its reporting in several articles and to “Set the Record Straight,” posted detailed rebuttals on its website.
To review relevant key moments in the recent history of this water agency as reported by the IE Voice and Black Voice News, see below WVWD Retrospective: A Chronology of Corruption, Cronyism, Malfeasance and Mismanagement.
S. E. Williams is executive editor of the IE Voice and Black Voice News.
WVWD Retrospective: A Chronology of Corruption, Cronyism, Malfeasance and Mismanagement
• In a separate incident C. Young threatens to retaliate against Litchfield for pursuing reimbursement on behalf of WVWD for C. Young’s personal printer supplies paid for with ratepayer funds.
• Cliff Young files Fair Political Practices Commission complaint against Linda Gonzalez.
• Chief financial officer, Suzanne Cook, files suit against C. Young and WVWD alleging C. Young engaged in improper hiring and financial practices
• Litchfield files claim threatening to sue WVWD alleging C. Young was directing actions without obtaining Board consensus.
• C. Young is re-elected to WVWD; Michael Taylor is elected to first term replacing Linda Gonzalez.
• Dyer resigns under pressure after an investigation spearheaded by C. Young over Dyer’s place of residence. Robert Bourland who was temporarily appointed to replace him was ultimately defeated by Kyle Crowther in a special election.
• C. Young bullies Litchfield into rehiring his political supporter and neighbor Robert Christman as chief financial officer. Christman was previously released from probationary employment with WVWD for poor performance. Litchfield refuses. https://theievoice.com/wvwd-a-never-ending-story-of-corruption-and-malfeasance/
• C. Young threatens to retaliate against Litchfield for pursuing reimbursement of personal printer supplies.
• Litchfield sends a letter to the WVWD’s General Counsel Michael Davis expressing opposition to what he describes as “the unlawful conduct of the district and its employees.”
• Four district executives send Litchfield a memo titled “Director Clifford Young Sr. Activities.” The memo outlines examples of C. Dr. Young’s abuse of power and misappropriation of public funds for his own personal benefit. Litchfield forwards memo to General Counsel Davis.
• Davis forwards the information to the board of directors and advises them Litchfield was entitled to WhistleBlower Protection under Article 9 of the District’s Code of Ethics/Board Conduct policies and all other applicable laws. https://theievoice.com/the-top-10-reasons-why-the-west-valley-water-district-looks-a-lot-like-the-city-of-bell/
• The board hires an attorney and tries to force Litchfield to be interviewed without his own lawyer present in violation of the California Rules of Professional Conduct. https://theievoice.com/wvwd-a-never-ending-story-of-corruption-and-malfeasance/
• Board approves the hiring of Robert Tafoya (Tafoya & Garcia) as the district’s general legal counsel. At the time, Tafoya also represented the City of Baldwin Park as its city attorney. Olinger was the only board member to vote against his hiring.
• In response to the growing chaos among board members and between C. Young and top administrators concerned ratepayers formed the WVWD Ratepayers Association (RPA) under the leadership of Don Griggs to serve as a bulwark against the dysfunction and growing concerns over misuse of ratepayer funds. https://blackvoicenews.com/2020/07/19/remembering-don-griggs-my-good-friend-since-1965/
• C. Young places the agency’s assistant general manager, Greg Gage, human resources manager, Karen Logue, and board’s secretary, Shanae Smith, on suspension or administrative leave—Olinger was the only Board member to vote against these actions. All these individuals purportedly supported Clifford Young’s opponent, Gonzalez, in the election.
• Logue and Smith accuse C. Young of not following procedures and skirting guidelines for hiring district personnel. Because tensions are high at the meeting police are present to maintain control.
• C. Young hosts an election victory celebration for himself, Michael Taylor and Kyle Crowther and describes it as a Christmas party and charging it to WVWD. RPA believes Young had violated FPPC regulations when he requested and was reimbursed for the cost of the event which totaled $1,897.43. https://theievoice.com/i-refuse-to-be-bullied/
• C. Young and G. Young ousted as president and vice president of the WVWD Board of Directors after complaints by RPA were forwarded to the Fair Political Practices Commission regarding misuse of ratepayer funds. Michael Taylor was elected president and Kyle Crowther vice president. https://theievoice.com/overthrown/?fbclid=IwAR1GhTaC33awhY24EQa7OckGTmeDKK57PfCzNytyf3PqvOGnbC_AHsck55U
• WVWD hired The Kaufman Law Firm again, this time to investigate various complaints made by Clarence Mansell and Deborah Martinez against C. Young. The investigation concludes C. Young subjected Mansell and Martinez to harassment, intimidation, anda hostility.
• Clifford Young, Chief Financial Officer Naisha Davis, and Assistant Board Secretary Patricia Romero as plaintiffs file “under seal” a qui tam lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging West Valley Water contracted counsels, District General Counsel Robert Tafoya and his law firm, Tafoya & Garcia in addition to West Valley Water District’s counsels, consultants, board members and general manager.
• California’s Attorney General also receives a qui tam complaint. Missing from the packet of material evidence submitted to the Attorney General is all the correspondence from the Fair Political Practices Commission, including the Fair Political Practices Commission’s final notice concluding it would not be proceeding with any action.
• Dr. Michael Taylor announces an impending audit of the agency by the California State Controller’s office. https://blackvoicenews.com/2019/07/19/state-audit-may-unravel-and-reveal-truth-behind-wvwds-tangled-web-of-corruption/
• West Valley Water District Public Affairs Manager Naseem Farooqi files a temporary restraining order in San Bernardino Superior Court alleging director Greg Young threatens to kill him. https://theievoice.com/political-battle-for-control-of-west-valley-water-district-erupts-as-election-rapidly-approaches/
• Black Voice News Publisher Emeritus Hardy Brown Sr. endorses Don Olinger https://theievoice.com/don-olinger-for-west-valley-water-district-board-of-directors-district-4/
• WVWD announces the appointment of Shamindra (Rickey) Manbahal as Chief Financial Officer and many in the community question his qualifications and background. https://theievoice.com/wvwds-new-chief-financial-officer-explains-questionable-past-part-1/ and https://theievoice.com/wvwds-new-chief-financial-officer-explains-questionable-past-part-2/
• 16 of the district’s 18 department managers complain of low morale requests Mansell be removed. According to the letter, “General Manager Mansell has alienated employees by removing responsibilities from specific individuals to those who will do his bidding.” https://theievoice.com/a-rats-nest-aka-the-west-valley-water-district/
• California State Controller’s evaluation reviewed conditions at the agency during the period July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2018. C. Young led the WVWD Board of Directors during much, if not all, the period under audit. https://blackvoicenews.com/2020/07/12/in-response-to-the-state-audit-west-valley-water-district-said/